Brittany McDonaldson, the first and only female golfer on the new EMU women's team poses for a portrait Sunday. McDonaldson and the women's golf team will begin their freshman year this fall. (Photo by Justin Falls / DN-R)

Incoming Student Leads EMU Women’s Golf

When you ask people to name the greatest golfers you’ll get a standard list: Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and so on. There’s a theme in those names; they’re all men.

In recent years however, women have started picking up clubs and taking a crack at the sport with some serious success (we’re not talking Rene Russo in the movie, “Tin Cup,” here).

Harrisonburg’s female golfing phenom and recent Harrisonburg High School graduate Brittany McDonaldson is one of these golfing girls. When she graduated this past spring, Brittany was the only female to play golf at HHS in the history of the program.

“They had a men’s team, and I just played on the men’s team. At first, [the guys] didn’t really know what to think about me, but after a while I became one of the boys,” said McDonaldson.

She has been playing with the boys since she was a kid; in fact it was her father who sparked her interest in the game.

“My dad started playing and had me caddy for him, and I liked it. I wanted to play myself, so I got into First Tee,” explained McDonaldson. First Tee is a local program that couples golf lessons with life skills and, through her participation, she moved from caddy to golfer.

Her experience as the only female golfer at HHS will come in handy this fall when McDonaldson starts as the sole female golfer on the brand new Eastern Mennonite University women’s golf team. She’s not too concerned about being the only girl on the squad so far.

“From high school, I was the only girl there, too; I’m kind of used to it,” she said.

If EMU hadn’t added a golf program for the upcoming year, McDonaldson may have looked elsewhere to keep playing the game she loves. Luckily, this fall both McDonaldson and the university golf program will start their freshman year.

Wendell Eberly, who will be coaching both the men’s and women’s golf teams, explained how important it is to add the golf program.

“We’re hoping this program will bring the student athlete to EMU that wouldn’t compete in another type of sport … We’re hoping there are students that will consider [EMU] now who wouldn’t have otherwise,” Eberly explained.

McDonaldson said EMU was attractive for two reasons.

“[EMU] was getting a women’s golf team, and they have a really good nursing program,” said McDonaldson.

She followed in her father’s footsteps with golf, but it will be her mother’s profession she’ll pursue. “My mom is a nurse, so I’ve been around it. I like taking care of people,” she explained.

“Brittany is a very good student, she’s going to go into the nursing program, she’s very intelligent and a good golfer,” Eberly said.

As the only female golfer on the team, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, which EMU belongs to, must score Brittany a bit differently. Typically for tournaments five players compete, with the top four scores compiling the total. A one-player team will change the process.

“I’ll just have to play as an individual,” she explained.

McDonaldson doesn’t seem concerned; she’s used to standing as the only female on the green, but Eberly is hoping to fill five remaining slots on the team.

The golf program will call Heritage Oaks its home green and McDonaldson’s no stranger to the course; she works there and it’s her favorite in the area. She uses the course to keep sharp in the off-season.

“I mainly hit balls every day and play a few times a week,” she said.

McDonaldson has no plans to retire her clubs after school, saying, “I’ll definitely keep playing after college.”

Courtesy Daily News Record, July 10, 2012